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Valvular heart disease: aortic regurgitation.

Circulation 2005 July 6
Aortic regurgitation (AR) is characterized by diastolic reflux of blood from the aorta into the left ventricle (LV). Acute AR typically causes severe pulmonary edema and hypotension and is a surgical emergency. Chronic severe AR causes combined LV volume and pressure overload. It is accompanied by systolic hypertension and wide pulse pressure, which account for peripheral physical findings, such as bounding pulses. The afterload excess caused by systolic hypertension leads to progressive LV dilation and systolic dysfunction. The most important diagnostic test for AR is echocardiography. It provides the ability to determine the cause of AR and to assess the severity of AR and its effect on LV size, function, and hemodynamics. Many patients with chronic severe AR may remain clinically compensated for years with normal LV function and no symptoms. These patients do not require surgery but can be followed carefully for the onset of symptoms or LV dilation/dysfunction. Surgery should be considered before the LV ejection fraction falls below 55% or the LV end-systolic [corrected] dimension reaches 55 mm. Symptomatic patients should undergo surgery unless there are excessive comorbidities or other contraindications. The primary role of medical therapy with vasodilators is to delay the need for surgery in asymptomatic patients with normal LV function or to treat patients in whom surgery is not an option. The goal of vasodilator therapy is to achieve a significant decrease in systolic arterial pressure. Future therapies may focus on molecular mechanisms to prevent adverse LV remodeling and fibrosis.

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